Ties That Don’t Bind

Some members of the City Council were predictably outraged to learn this week—on the front page of The New York

Some members of the City Council were predictably outraged to learn this week—on the front page of The New York Times, no less—that their names had turned up on the list of people who had been monitored by the NYPD in the run-up to the 2004 Republican National Convention.

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“This is Big Brother time,” Councilman Charles Barron, a former Black Panther, said in an interview.

“We’re used to this,” he continued. “This is the same thing we went through in the 60’s, where they monitored every little thing we do and they bugged our phones—where they had us under surveillance.”

(The other officials cited in the report as supporters of what the police described as a protest against the Bush administration’s policies—Bill Perkins, now a State Senator, and Larry Seabrook—are also African-American.)

But whatever institutional bonds exist from serving on the City Council apparently weren’t enough for all of Mr. Barron’s colleagues to share his sense of outrage.

Council member and former State Attorney General Oliver Koppell approved of the NYPD’s undercover investigation of protest groups, on the grounds that “aggressive advocacy can turn into violent acts.”

Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee and is an outspoken defender of the NYPD, said the investigation was “one of the reasons we were safe throughout the Republican National Convention,” and that it was “a very good thing to do.”

Especially, he said, since the police had kept an eye on a well-known militant named … Charles Barron.

“Now, the fact that some Council members were apparently—and I’m no expert on this—apparently cited as supporting one of the rallies, I don’t think that has much to do with it one way or the other,” he said. Although any group that Charles Barron is associated with—since he has actually made threats against the police, by saying ‘We’re not the only ones who bleed’—probably should be monitored.”

Ties That Don’t Bind